Riverpilot John J. Harvey had just maneuvered alongside the German liner Muencheon in the lower Hudson when a series of explosions rocked the waterfront. Several of the firemen aboard were knocked into the river by the percussionary force. John was knocked into the river by the force of a flying steel deck-plate. He was dead before he got wet.
A year later, John J. Harvey was fittingly drafted back into service along the Battery Park seawalls – as the most powerful fireboat ever built and the first New York City fireboat to be named after a fallen firefighter.
For six decades the John J. Harvey battled the most infamous fires of maritime New York. She served her city with distinction and became a fixture of Manhattan’s West Side. But as the modern era of ships and seaways gradually sailed in, the city found fewer and fewer reasons to justify the Harvey’s expense. Her five powerful motors and centrifugal pumps were quieted and she was finally put away to rust in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, left for dead and almost forgotten. Almost.
Exactly sixty-nine years after the flesh and blood John J. Harvey died, his namesake was brought back to life once again by a group of locals who by some unseen guiding force, couldn’t bear to say goodbye just yet. By summertime, she was back in her old waters, peacefully cruising along and being lovingly cared for and restored. The spirit of John J. Harvey wasn’t quite ready for retirement yet though.
When the towers of the World Trade Center fell in 2001, every water main was destroyed. The John J. Harvey spent 80 straight hours pumping 20,000 gallons a minute onto the flames before finally being relieved of duty one last time.